Martin St. Louis played in 16 NHL seasons. That's about 16 more than everyone expected him to play. Everyone except St. Louis.
“I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL; it has been an amazing ride,” St. Louis said in statement released by the New York Rangers. “I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers organizations and owners for providing me the opportunity to play the sport I love for so many years. I could have never played for so long or accomplished all that I have without the unwavering love and support from my wife, Heather, our three sons, Ryan, Lucas, and Mason, and my parents.”
“I have had the good fortune of working with some incredible players and trainers throughout my career who I am grateful to also call good friends,” St. Louis added. “I am also thankful to all of the fans who have supported me through the years; it has meant so much to me. I have dedicated my life to being the best player I could be and now want to turn more of my focus to my three boys. I look forward to this next chapter of my life and the time I will have with my family.”
In in 1,134 career regular season games, St. Louis scored 391 goals, 642 assists for 1,033 points. The 40-year-old won the Stanley Cup and Hart Memorial Trophy with the Lightning in 2004. He is a two-time Art Ross Trophy winner and three-time recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 2014.
Not bad for a player who was never drafted by any National Hockey League team.
The Laval, Que., native broke into the NHL in 1998 with the Calgary Flames.
"This guy looks like the Paper Boy -- but he's a great player," said Flames scouts when they signed St. Louis as a free agent in 1998.
The scouts were referring to St. Louis' lack of size.
"Of course this is about my size -- it always is," said the 5'7" St. Louis.
But teams failed to measure the size of St. Louis' heart. He was dedicated and fearless, going into every corner as the smallest man in the battle. He was such a great competitor. And he utilized his great skating, both in terms of all out speed and his intelligent use of changing gears, darting in and out of traffic.
He overcame the doubters at every level, and though it did not work out in Calgary, he would prove his critics wrong in the NHL, too.
St. Louis, who grew up idolizing Montreal Canadiens' similarly undersized star Mats Naslund, had starred at the University of Vermont over four years. He graduated from school but still never got a NHL offer. Not even after finishing just four points shy of the all time ECAC career scoring leaders.
After playing in the minor leagues Calgary gave St. Louis a shot, but tried utilizing him more as a penalty killer and energy guy, rather than playing him to his strengths as an offensive player.
The Tampa Bay Lightning signed St. Louis in 2000 following his release from Calgary. It was perfect timing as the young Lightning team had emerging stars like Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Fredrik Modin. Coach Steve Ludzik knew the inexperienced roster was in for a long season and that allowed for a lot of experimentation with the forwards. St. Louis was a big benefactor of this, being allowed to show what he could do. He scored 18 goals and 40 points, and had arrived as a NHL player.
2001-02 saw the arrival of new goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and new coach John Tortorella. From the outset, the Lightning skated like a totally different team. St. Louis developed great chemistry with Richards, and both got a lot more power play time. But a broken leg would end St. Louis' season early.
After a significant period of rehabilitation, St. Louis returned to the Lighting for the 2002-03 season in the greatest shape of his career. St. Louis set career highs with 33 goals and 70 points and represented the Lightning at the mid-season All Star Game. More importantly, the Lightning were emerging as one of hockey's more exciting teams, qualifying for the playoffs for only the second time in the franchise's 11 seasons. They were stopped in round two by the eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.
The lessons learned that season would pay huge dividends for St. Louis and the Lightning in 2003-04. With 38 goals and 94 points in the regular season, St. Louis would win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer, the Hart Trophy as the league MVP, and the Pearson (now Lindsay) Trophy as the MVP as voted by the players. St. Louis topped all of that in the playoffs, playing an instrumental role in leading the Lightning to the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship, knocking off the Calgary Flames, oddly enough, in a memorable playoff.
Later that summer St. Louis represented Canada at the World Cup of Hockey, further cementing his status as one of the best players in all of hockey. Not bad for a player who was dismissed by everyone in the NHL for many years.
Over the next decade St. Louis would remain as one of the top players in hockey. He would play for Canada in the 2006 Olympics and 2014 (winning gold!), win three Lady Byng trophies and, in 2013, become the oldest player to lead the league in scoring, winning the Art Ross Trophy at the age of 37.
St. Louis surprisingly demanded to be traded from Tampa Bay to the New York Rangers in 2014. After two long playoff runs in New York, St. Louis hung up the skates in the summer of 2015.